There are so many beautiful aspects about Major League Baseball, which is what makes it so maddening that owners and players are just now starting to make progress in their negotiations for the 2020 season, but we digress. One of them is how a player can muster a great season seemingly out of nowhere and vanish as quick as he burst onto the scene.
As far as "what could have been" players are concerned, the St. Louis Cardinals really have a plethora of former talents to choose from. Here are the first three that come to mind.
3. Mark Whiten
Though Mark Whiten played in part of 11 MLB seasons, he was anything but a well-known commodity around the league. After all, he played on eight different teams throughout his career. Remember what we were saying about players putting together one great season out of the blue? In 1993, the Cardinals outfielder clobbered 25 home runs with 97 RBI. He even hit four homers and drove in 12 runs in a single game, the latter of which tied a big league record that still stands today. To put Whiten's downfall into context, he appeared in more than 100 games just once across the next six seasons.
2. Rick Ankiel
It's difficult to call a player whose MLB career last 11 seasons a one-hit wonder, but Rick Ankiel the pitcher absolutely deserves a spot on this list. As a 20-year-old rookie in 2000, the Cardinals southpaw made 30 starts and compiled a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 175 innings. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and was subsequently tabbed as the future ace of St. Louis' staff. However, a monster meltdown in the playoffs proved catastrophic on his career as a pitcher. In fact, Ankiel called it quits on pitching after a 24-inning 2001 campaign before giving up entirely after a botched comeback attempt in 2004. The former second-round pick's demise as a hurler is still one of the most perplexing storylines in MLB history.
1. Kent Bottenfield
After making his MLB debut with the Montreal Expos in 1992, Kent Bottenfield made pit stops in Colorado, San Francisco and Chicago before landing in St. Louis' bullpen in 1998. He was converted to a starter the next season and took the league by storm. For the year, the heavyset right-hander finished 18-7 with a 3.97 ERA and 124 strikeouts across 31 starts. This season was unprecedented for a hurler that was nothing more than a second-rate reliever for the majority of his career. As expected, Bottenfield couldn't replicate his All-Star campaign and was out of the big leagues after 2001.